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4th August 2022 EDT FEATURES

Father’s Day 2022: Sole Superior’s Jonathan Fong Speaks on Singapore’s Sneaker Scene & Parenting

Father’s Day 2022: Sole Superior’s Jonathan Fong Speaks on Singapore’s Sneaker Scene & Parenting
Father’s Day 2022: Sole Superior’s Jonathan Fong Speaks on Singapore’s Sneaker Scene & Parenting

By Cheyenne Chia
Photography by Anton Karve

Jonathan Fong Sole Superior Singapore Father's Day 2022

As chunky dad shoes (looking at you Crocs, Air Monarch and New Balance 624 trainers) creep their way back into trends, we can’t help but wonder what these kicks meant to the OGs who lived and breathed in the era where such silhouettes were not considered “retro”. How was it like sneaker collecting back in the day, how has the community changed, and most importantly, what was considered cool back then?

Our questions and queries were answered this Father’s Day by Jonathan Fong, co-founder of Sole Superior and Street Superior, Singapore’s premier sneaker and streetwear conventions. The SNKRDUNK team had the opportunity to speak with the man himself, who was a sneakerhead “since [he] was a child in the 80s and an angsty teen in the 90s” (his words!) and his two bubbly children, Damon and Gemma. We discussed his foray into the sneaker scene, how fatherhood has shaped his style and whether investing in sneakers for kids is really all that worth it.

You’ve been integral to the Singaporean street and sneaker scene, with the Sole Superior convention receiving global recognition. Could you let us know how you got into the sneaker scene and what were the motivations behind the convention and festival?

It was in the mid to late 00s when I started working full-time that I allowed myself to indulge more with a fixed salary and boom! Fulfilling lost nostalgia and finding happiness through sneaker shopping.

Street Superior Convention 2018

I met Dexter, the other co-founder of Sole and Street Superior, while waiting in line for sneakers close to 12 years ago. We became friends and would talk about sneakers and global sneaker events, wishing that we could have something like that in Singapore, for consumers and enthusiasts to come together and celebrate the diverse love for sneakers and associated culture.

We eventually decided, “Hey, maybe we can give this a try.” Many brands and people in the industry baulked or laughed at the idea of us two “fans” trying to do a sneaker event. Fortunately, over 1,400 people showed up that first afternoon in 2013. From then our annual audience would grow exponentially.

In 2019, we had a complete takeover at *SCAPE, with over 15,000 attendees having a super rad time enjoying the diverse programme and fest lineup. 

Sole superior x XLarge Sole Superior x Novesta Collaboration

We see that you’ve also done brand collaborations, such as your feature with Nike. Could you share with us the most memorable ones and what made them special?

Xlarge has always been one of my favourite streetwear labels since I was a teen in the 90s — especially with Mike D of the Beastie Boys being one of the original founders of the brand. For us to get an official collaboration with them was definitely momentous. 

As sneaker fans, the other super highlight was obviously getting to do our own sneaker. It was a collaboration with Novesta, a Solvakian cult sneaker band that still manufactures in the Czech Republic. Still brings a huge smile to my face when I get to lace these up.

jonathan fong sole superior father's day 2022

Since this is a Father’s Day feature, we would love to get to know you as a father too. Could you share with us how fatherhood has changed or shaped your activities?

I have 2 kids, Damon who’s 8 and Gemma who is 4. I’ve always been pretty good with other people’s kids, but having my own of course was a complete wild adventure. As with adulting in general, who the heck really knows what they are doing, right? Personally I believe that you have to make yourself happy and keep true to who you are; keep doing things you love — even when you become a parent.

I’m very fortunate that Damon, my son, has been super accommodating and I take him with me everywhere that I ordinarily love to go: nature walks, seeing bands and gigs and going for art events. I love spending time with my kids, just trying to do rad things with them as much as possible and to the best of our means.

Who are your personal style influences and why? Has your styling changed as you grew older and became a dad?

I’ve always looked to the Beastie Boys for both music and style; gawping at images of them in magazines would lead me down the rabbit hole of trying to find the streetwear labels they repped — brands like Fuct, Freshjive, Stussy, Dickies, Ben Davis etc.

Jonathan Fong Sole Superior Outfit Father's Day 2022 Singapore

Very happy to report that I pretty much keep to those staples! Maybe not as much with the baggy jeans these days, but I’m pretty sure my 16 year old self would hi-five my current self if they ever met in the present day. 

Other personal style influences: Kazuki Kuraishi (designer), The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode Strokes, Pharrell, Coming of age films, Deftones, Stanley Kubrick. 

Does your taste for street culture influence the way you dress your children? 

In some ways yes, but we’re really pragmatic about kids clothes having such a limited lifespan, considering how fast kids grow! I’ve got to shoutout Fred Prerry all day (of which Damon modelled their recent campaign). They definitely make kids’ clobber that is superbly crafted.

Damon Nike Dunk Low Michigan and Gemma Vans Slip On The Nightmare Before Christmas

Personally I think you can’t go wrong with a Vans checkerboard Slip-on for kids and the price point is definitely decent. Plus they always have super rad collabs that kids will be down with too!

Keen is my other go-to as well, especially if your kids don’t like wearing socks — I highly recommend the Newport sandals as they’ve got a super sturdy rubber bumper-great for kids to run, jump and climb though sand, mud and water. Super easy to spray down and wash before it goes through another round of thrashing. 

As a sneakerhead, we are sure that you have amassed a personal collection of sneakers. Could you share with us more about your collection?

In the late 00s I got in a phase where I would scour sample sales, warehouse sales and buy anything that was on sale, cheap and discounted. It got really quite crazy with something like 400-500 pairs being stashed all over my bedroom.

Jonathan Fong Sole Superior Sneaker Collection Father's Day 2022 Singapore

Peep the signed card by Shawn Stussy, former founder of Stüssy

With 2 kids and living in a modest 3-room flat I’ve downsized the collection and had to be truly more selective. I always had a spot for Nike Dunk SBs, especially Dunk SBs designed by a wonderful gentleman named Todd Bratrud. 

Lastly, we’d love to hear your opinion or hot takes on the sneaker culture in Singapore. 

I feel that sneakers have been at the apex of fashion and co-opted by mainstream audiences for pretty much the past 7 years. It’s been super interesting to see, especially witnessing the cultural shift firsthand at the end of 2015, when Adidas launched the NMD. 

Eventually trends will come and go, but those who are passionate about sneakers and streetwear will remain. Whatever their reason for staying in the scene, I’m sure we all enjoy the unbridled joy every time we open a new shoebox, sniffing in that boxfresh scent and lacing up the tongues the best way we like…

Special thanks to Jonathan Fong and his two children, Damon and Gemma. You can find Jonathan making waves at @solesuperiorsg and @street.superior.

And to all the dads out there — Happy Father’s Day!

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